A residential care or nursing home is just that – a ‘home’ for its elderly and vulnerable residents, so when a sudden upheaval such as closure occurs it can be devastating for both residents and staff.
Such a dramatic change is also deeply worrying for the families of anxious, frightened and sometimes confused residents who face the prospect of trying to find a suitable home for their relative within a very short timescale.
More families may face the problem of care home closure
Very few care home closures are unplanned, according to the charity Independent Age. Residents will usually be informed well in advance. However that certainly wasn’t the case when the sudden and unexpected closure of Warneford House in Doncaster after poor ratings by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) left the elderly residents just hours to find new accommodation.
Whilst Doncaster Council’s decision that it could not safely leave residents in this home was probably correct, giving relatives less than a week to find or approve alternative accommodation could possibly result in families making a wrong or hasty decision.
An apparent increase in the rate of care home closures for a variety of reasons means that many more families may face the sudden and unexpected task of having to find somewhere for their loved one to live and be cared for.
Closures impact private and local authority providers
A number of recent reports suggest that residential care businesses are going bust and closing down at an alarming rate. Press reports of research by LaingBuisson suggest that, in the last decade, 929 care homes housing 31,201 elderly and vulnerable residents closed (the collapse of Southern Cross alone in 2011 accounted for much of that number).
Other data reveals that, in the private care sector, in the past financial year 148 care home businesses entered insolvency – an 83% increase on the numbers in 2016-17. A similar audit carried out by the Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services in June 2018 reported in the Daily Telegraph revealed that at least two thirds of councils have experienced recent closures affecting thousands of elderly residents.
Within a six-month period, 58 councils saw residential and nursing homes go out of business, resulting in a 40% rise in the number of vulnerable residents forced to seek new accommodation.
The website drivenbyhealth highlights regional and local differences in both openings and closures of homes. The best performing region for care homes actually opening was in the South West. In terms of closures, Lancashire was the worst performing local authority, losing 226 beds, with Essex and St Helens in second and third ‘worst’ place.
Increasing costs and rising demand drive closures
Many reasons have been proposed for this apparent increase in care homes going out of business. Recruitment and retention remains the main worry for care providers, with employees in the care sector being among the lowest paid in the economy. Perversely, some sources cite the introduction of the national living wage as a factor in driving up costs for private providers.
Councils in England have seen their funding for adult social care from central government reduced by £16bn between 2010 and 2020. Rising demand and increased cost pressures mean many more councils may have to make significant savings in their social care budgets with more homes closing down.
Sarah Cunliffe, an associate solicitor who specialises in cases of care home abuse and neglect, comments:
‘It is undoubtedly a stressful a time for families trying to ensure their loved one is respected and protected. It can be difficult to find an institution you can have faith in and completely depend upon to fulfil its obligations towards your relative. Having found somewhere, facing the prospect of going through that process again after your loved one has been settled for a while can be exhausting.'
‘Shoosmiths has years of experience in not only the legal, but also the many practical and emotional aspects of dealing with the affairs of those who are vulnerable and in residential care. When you need us, we can help guide you through the issues you and your loved ones face, providing advice and signposting practical help alongside technical legal assistance.’
Read our guide at the bottom of this page about ‘What happens when a care home closes?’ and the steps you should take to find suitable care home accommodation.